Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 27, 2012

Around Town

BUZZKILL ... Tasers were once a hot topic in Palo Alto, where the City Council narrowly approved their use in 2007. But after a few high-profile incidents, including an instance in 2008 in which an officer allegedly lured a man from his van and shot him with a Taser (the city was ordered to pay a $35,000 settlement in the case), stun guns have entered a period of lull. Two years ago, the police department revised its Taser policy, raising the bar for when deployment of Tasers should be allowed. Under the new standard, the suspect must "pose an immediate threat of physical injury before firing a Taser is appropriate." The city's independent police auditor, Michael Gennaco, wrote in a recent biannual report that there haven't been any Taser incidents in the period between August 2011 and January 2012 the third straight reporting period in which there weren't any Taser firings. Gennaco also found that the recent slew of retirements in the high ranks of the Palo Alto Police Department has had little impact on the quality of its internal investigations. He wrote that there has been some "transitional confusion" and that the new personnel has been "somewhat tardy" in its communications with the auditor. Still, he gave the department generally high marks for its handling of investigations during the time of major staffing changes, which includes the departure of a lieutenant in charge of internal affairs. "We anticipated that this might challenge the ability of PAPD to maintain quality and continuity in internal affairs investigations," Gennaco wrote. "We are pleased to observe that recent investigations appear to be of good quality and have been completed promptly."

FOLLOWING SUIT ... Palo Alto is no stranger to high-speed-rail litigation, having already participated in two lawsuits against the state agency charged with implementing the highly controversial $68 billion project (in one case as a "friend of the court," in the other case as a plaintiff). This week, city officials indicated that part three could be right around the corner. The California High-Speed Rail Authority last week "recertified" its final environmental analysis for the Bay Area-to-Central Valley segment of the voter-approved rail line. On Thursday, members of the City Council Rail Committee voiced concerns about the revised analysis, which establishes Pacheco Pass as the preferred route to the Peninsula for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line. The city is also appealing the most recent Sacramento Superior Court decision that forced the rail authority to revise the environmental study but did not force it to reconsider the route or to address concerns from independent transportation experts and rail watchdogs about the ridership numbers the rail authority used to justify its choice of Pacheco. On Thursday, the rail committee suggested that the time is ripe to ponder a third suit. Committee Chair Larry Klein said that the committee should consider another suit, a subject that members are expected to take up in a closed session in early May. The city has 30 days from the time of the document's approval date (April 19) to decide whether to file a legal challenge.

FOR THE CHILDREN ... Stanford University Medical Center's $5 billion effort to upgrade and expand its hospitals hit an unexpected snag last June, when parents whose children attend the Stanford Arboretum Children's Center learned that the project includes major renovations to Hoover Pavilion. The parents, mostly Stanford faculty, argued that the child care center's location next to the pavilion could pose a health risk to the children. Stanford, while maintaining that construction would not present health risks, agreed to temporarily move the child care center to a site near Stock Farm Road while construction proceeds. In the first two months of this year, Stanford installed the new facility and playground equipment at the site, according to the university's construction updates. The new child care center officially opened its doors Monday, City Manager James Keene told the City Council. Meanwhile, work on Hoover Pavilion is proceeding at a brisk pace. According to an update newsletter from Stanford, workers are scheduled to remove trees, install HVAC units on the roof and work on the building's elevator shaft and stairwell this week.

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